Consumer Reports Poll: 40 Percent of Adults Have Yet to Begin Holiday Shopping

Dec 17, 2009, 06:00 ET from Consumer Reports

Shoppers plan to spend about $700 on average, down about $40 from last year

YONKERS, N.Y., Dec. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Many Americans have put off shopping for holiday gifts. As of December 6th, 40 percent of adults said that they have yet to hit the stores for gifts, according to Consumer Reports' latest Holiday Shopping Poll.

They also told Consumer Reports that, on average, they will be spending $699 on holiday gifts. The full poll results are available on

Over the past three holiday shopping seasons, the average amount shoppers plan to spend on gifts has declined steadily. In 2008, shoppers anticipated spending $740, on average, down from $763 in 2007. While planned spending has decreased by $64, the number of gifts shoppers plan to buy has not changed. On average, shoppers plan to buy 15 gifts, which is about the same number as in previous years.

The next few weeks may be frantic for many shoppers, as only 12 percent have finished their holiday shopping and nearly one-third (30%) do not anticipate finishing until December 23 or later. Just over one-in-ten (13%) shoppers will not finish until December 24. And finding that perfect gift may be problematic for procrastinators, as a third (34%) of consumers who have started gift shopping have found an item they wanted was out-of-stock.

"The findings clearly show that Americans are taking a pragmatic approach to the holidays. And that's a good thing," said Tod Marks, senior editor and shopping expert for Consumer Reports. "Consumers are spending a bit less, focusing on more practical gifts, and vowing to take on less debt and pay it off sooner."

Consumer Reports' survey also found that 68 percent of credit card users plan to pay off their holiday debt by the end of January. These intentions seem ambitious, but in recent years adults have become more diligent in paying off their holiday debt.

Best Holiday Bargains

  • Survey respondents told Consumer Reports that they were finding the best deals at mass merchandisers (41%) such as Walmart and Target, and online retailers (39%).These were followed by department stores (21%), discount stores (16%) such as TJ Maxx and Marshalls, outlet stores and malls (12%), and warehouse clubs (11%).

Methods of Payment

  • About three-quarters (76%) of shoppers use cash to pay for their holiday purchases, leading both debit cards (51%) and credit cards (48%) by a wide margin. Men (41%) are more likely than women (29%) to use cash most often.
  • Since 2007, the amount that consumers charge on credit cards to pay for holiday purchases has steadily decreased. Shoppers who plan to use their credit cards told Consumer Reports that they intend to put less on them this year, charging $636 on average versus $682 in 2008 and $723 in 2007.

Credit Card Debt

  • Credit card users paid off their credit card debt faster last holiday season than the preceding year. By the end of January 2009, 61 percent had paid off their credit card debt incurred during the 2008 holiday season, compared to 53 percent in 2007. However, just over one-quarter (27%) did not pay off their 2008 holiday debt until March 2009 or later.

Give, Receive & Re-Gift

  • On average, consumers plan on buying about 15 gifts. Women plan on buying more gifts than men, 16 compared to 13. And those getting gifts this season may actually find them useful, as 34 percent of adults told Consumer Reports that they are more likely to buy practical gifts this year. This is good news for the 30 percent of adults who said they wanted to receive more practical gifts. Although practical gifts are not guaranteed to be good, especially if they come from an extended family member, who 15 percent reported give the worst gifts. Parents (6%) and in-laws (7%) are less likely to give the worst gift. Seen that gift before? Look closely, as 15 percent of gift shoppers reported that they will practice re-gifting this year.

Online Shopping

  • The percentage of shoppers who plan to buy gifts online continues to increase. This year, 39 percent of shoppers plan to purchase gifts online between early December and the holidays, up from 31 percent in 2006. And when it comes to online shopping, men (44%) are more likely than women (34%) to do so.

Post-Holiday Shopping

  • According to the Consumer Reports' poll, nearly half (46%) of adults plan to shop in-stores between Christmas and New Years, with most being drawn into the stores to take advantage of post-holiday sales (81%) and 69 percent planning to shop for themselves.

Wishing the Holidays Away

  • Bah humbug! As of December 6th, about one in five (21%) adults said they wished the holidays were over.

More information on Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll can be found online at

Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll Methodology

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random-digit-dialing telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. In all, 1,014 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviews took place between December 3 and 6, 2009. The margin of error is +/- 3.1% points at a 95 percent confidence level.


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SOURCE Consumer Reports